Not So Easily Replaced

The notion that long-term government employees are a liability is a simplistic one, according to one reader.


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Your article "The Retirement Age" (in CFO's Human Capital Special Issue, February), which focused on the fact that "baby boomers will soon be leaving the workforce in droves," made some excellent points that business and government must address in the coming years.

Ms. Hennessy correctly points out that the "mass exodus will not only create a shortage of workers to fill jobs...but it will precipitate a 'boomer brain drain' that will be felt for decades." But, then she goes on to say that some industries — those with higher-paid older workers, such as government, higher education, and highly unionized industries — could actually benefit from mass retirements.

The notion that long-term employees in the private sector are an asset and that long-term employees in the public sector are a liability reflects an extremely simplistic view of those sectors and the employees who work in them. It perpetuates the belief that government employees sit behind desks making life difficult for the rest of society. Wait until the physicians and nurses who work at public-sector health facilities begin to retire, the professors and faculty at public colleges and universities begin to retire, the engineers, veterinarians, and public-health specialists of all kinds begin to retire. We'll see how easy it will be to replace them with younger, less-experienced employees. From my perspective, it will be at least as difficult to replace them as in the private sector.

Of course, these views are exclusively mine and do not purport to reflect the views of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services nor any agency or component of government of the state of Missouri.

David S. Durbin

Director, Division of Regulation and Licensure

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

Jefferson City, Missouri

Your Human Capital Special Issue was a bright light to those who help clients align their people with their corporate objectives. Companies that want to improve bottom-line performance understand that their greatest asset leaves the building at the end of the business day. Human-capital initiatives need to be strategic, measurable, and accountable — especially given the fact that the American workforce is aging. Finding innovative ways to retain and retrain those facing retirement in this decade is the No. 1 human-capital challenge. Solving it will require companies to integrate their human-capital strategies with the needs of their operational and financial divisions. Gone are the days when HR was about processing checks and taking care of benefits.

Trish Emerson

Chief Executive Officer

Emerson Human Capital Consulting

Via E-mail


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